Visitor Levy will empower councils and support local services

A visitor levy will boost local services.

The visitor levy will protect important public services and ensure that local residents aren’t left picking up the bill for high tourist numbers, says the Scottish Greens finance spokesperson Ross Greer MSP.

Mr Greer’s comments will be made in a Scottish Parliament debate on Stage 1 of the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill this afternoon. The bill will allow local councils to introduce a visitor levy to hotels and overnight accommodation, similar to schemes already in place in popular tourist destinations across the world including Paris, Barcelona and New York.

The scheme was secured by the Scottish Greens during budget negotiations in 2019 but was one of a number of bills postponed due to the COVID pandemic.

Speaking in the debate, Mr Greer will say: “We’re incredibly fortunate that Scotland is such an attractive destination for tourists, whether from abroad, from the rest of the UK or our own residents choosing to explore and enjoy their own country for their holidays.

“The growth of our film and TV sector in recent years has resulted in a specific boost to tourist numbers in the various locations used by productions like Outlander and Star Wars. That’s great for our economy, especially in fragile rural communities - but it also puts huge pressure on those communities and on public services.”

Mr Greer will add: “Tourism brings money into local economies but councils see very little benefit from that. It’s an entirely reasonable principle that the body providing public toilets, bin collections, leisure facilities and all sorts of other services which tourists make use of is able to recoup those costs. And it's only fair that local residents aren’t left picking up the bill.”

Focusing on the role of tax, Mr Greer will say: “By diversifying our tax base with new levers, we can empower communities to deliver on their local priorities and have real control over how to shape their economies going forward.”

Mr Greer will conclude by referencing the shortage of housing in many rural communities which in turn creates staffing shortages in hospitality businesses: “Whilst the Scottish Government is addressing this through other measures like the doubling of Council Tax on holiday homes and regulation of short-term lets, I think there is a strong case for ensuring that councils can use visitor levy revenues to address housing needs.

“This bill has been a long time coming. Councils are ready to start developing their own local levies. This is just one of the many measures required, but it’s one the Scottish Greens are proud to support.”